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The Proposed changes and added amendments on the Election laws that can be seen as preparation for the Election in 2016 in Uganda.

Fred Ruhindi

On the 25th September 2015 three amendments will be read for the parliament. These Amendments are the President Elections Amendment Bill of 2015, Parliamentary Elections Amendment Bill of 2015 and the Electoral Commission Amendment Bill of 2015. They are all interconnected and will be a part of the preparations to the election that is happening in 2016.  All the Amendments comes from the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Hon. Fredrick Ruhindi

The Main parts of the Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill of 2015:

Parts of the bill with revise the requirement for a candidate to campaign in every district in Uganda and to stop the polling stations at 4:00PM on the polling day. Another main part of the bill is that nominations fee for the candidate will go from Shs. 8Million/= to the the new fee of Shs. 20Million/=.

The first issue with the candidate is that with the surge of districts make it difficult for a candidate to be in all the new districts before the polling day while campaigning. The second one is for fitting the economic environment that is different than in 2005.  The third issue is that the polling time is set from 5:00PM to 4:00PM to give the Electoral Commission more time to count the votes.

And a new amendment to proof the voter’s identity:

“a fourth table located at least ten meters from the ballot boxes where every voter, after deposing the ballot paper into the ballot box, shall proceed and the thumb or other finger on the voter’s right hand determined by the commission marked with or applied with inedible ink as one indicators that the voter has cast the ballot”.

The Main parts of the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill of 2015:

First part of the bill is to get four representatives of persons with disabilities to be elected by Electoral Colleges Constituted in accordance to the four traditional districts: Central, Eastern, Northern and Western regions. The second part of the bill is on the nomination fee for the candidate will go from Shs. 200k/= to new fee of Shs. 1Million/=.

The Main parts of the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill of 2015:

First part of new amendment is: “The commission shall, not later then two weeks before polling day, transmit to every political party and organization and independent candidate taking part in the election, an electronic text based copy of each voters’ register which the commission shall use on polling day”.

Second part is that the Commission has to employ one a District Election Administrator and an Assistant Election Administration. The District Election Administrator has the supervision, is in charge and custody of the voters’ in the district, and also seeing through the manner of the voters registers. Important character that the Administrator need is integrity, high moral and also “a person taken to have behaved in a corrupt manner in relation to his or her duties if he or she commits any act of dishonesty in connection with his or her duties, whether or not it constitutes a criminal offence”.

Third part is: “the Commission shall, before the display of the copy of the voters’ roll publish in the Gazette and in the print media, a list of all the places at which a voters’ roll is required to be displayed under this section”.

Aftermath:

The Presidential Candidate first gets more expensive to pay the nominee fee as a candidate it goes up Shs. 12Million from the 2005 to the total of Shs. 20Million and was at 2005 set to be Shs. 8Million. Everybody understands that’s a viable and big fee change and the argument is for the economic climate that has changed since 2005. If the value of the shilling has devalued that much in about ten year period that the candidate must pay over double of the fee, then the economic system has server issues.

The Second change is the time that is set from 5:00PM to 4:00PM on the polling station at the Election Day to give more time for counting. I am sure that this will be more of a statuary fix. The counting will have enormous ability to be manipulated after the votes are cast. The time set or fixed times is just an small tweak.

The third change in the Election laws are the thumb print that each voter has to get before casting the ballot. This will be sign of ink on the thumb proving that the voter has cast his or hers ballot. It’s a nice fix especially thinking about how the reports was a last election that people and military personal was bussed between voting stations to vote multiple times. With the ink on the finger it should be harder to dupe this one and the officials should easily see the print of ink on the thumb if a person tries to vote twice.

Fourth change is that a nomination fee for representatives for the disability goes up to Shs. 1Millon. There will also be four representatives one each representative from traditional districts: Central, Western, Northern and Eastern. This is in general a nice gesture to the community with applying that the Parliament gets people with special needs to the Parliament from now on.

Fifth change is that each political parties and independent should at least receive the voters register before two weeks before the polling day.  This is good thing to give them time to see the registers and check it. Might even give feedback to the Electoral Commission on shortfalls for the registration of voters in districts and municipalities that is necessary, though two weeks are little, if the registers are big who would have the capacity to oversee and scrutinize the register?

Sixth change is the additional new staff each district need. The new staff by the law is now District Election Administrator and Assistant Election Administrator who will look over the Polling and Election in the District. The person who will be hired has to have a moral compass, integrity and not act in a corrupt manner. All of the ones that are put into law are not exceptional this is what they should be as members of society and also professional people delivering and serving their nation and government so that the citizens can be sure of a valid result. A result and poll that is efficient and following procedure so that the tally can be justified and also being correct. Because if the Election Administrator doing their job and picking the right people, not letting the Electoral Commission having ability to trick the numbers or anybody else. Then the ballots and elections would be less rigged and actual have trustworthy people doing their jobs. If not, this is just a nice on paper and we still see the same issues in the Districts and clear the ballots for a free and fair election in 2016.

Seventh change is the publication in the Gazette or in print media. Where the Voters roll will be published, that is just a good thing. And proving to the public that the results getting official and can be explained. That should have already been there and is basic of official and public order, with this the Electoral Commission proves that it does it actual job in the election.

This all should be seen as interesting and see if this get voted in. If this gets official law it will have some effect on certain aspects on the coming election and the later by-elections as well. Since the signs of the public and local display will be visual with the thumb print and the District Electoral Administrator getting a vital role in procedures of the polling. Also the establishment of higher nomination fees for Presidential Candidates and also Special Disability representative which is total 4 representative one from each traditional regions. That is a great sign of all of the laws.

I don’t want to write for the third time what the laws says, but the issue is that it’s really patchwork and also quick fixes. If they will play big in the election is time to tell. And see if the next Commonwealth Report of 2016 will be as harsh as it was on Presidential Election in 2011. Peace.

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